Region could be locked down for many months

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
WA Police stopping motorists at the Forrest Highway checkpoint on Wednesday after regional lockdowns came into effect.
Camera IconWA Police stopping motorists at the Forrest Highway checkpoint on Wednesday after regional lockdowns came into effect. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

WA Premier Mark McGowan has reiterated that extreme social distancing and self-isolation requirements will continue in the region for “months — maybe many months” despite the apparent success of containing COVID-19.

As some in the region finished self-imposed 14-day quarantines, Mr McGowan warned that people who flouted requirements risked the death of loved ones and others in the community.

In a worrying sign for the local economy, the two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Augusta-Margaret River shire meant even with WA’s regional areas locked down, strict measures would continue for the foreseeable future.

Plans were under way to deliver schooling online for the next term after holidays — the surest sign yet of how long the crisis would go on.

With shire residents facing an unusually quiet Easter long weekend, tourism and business operators want the lockdowns to end soon.

Traders said the Government could fast-track lifting regional lockdowns because of stable numbers in the South West.

They also feared they would go bankrupt if restrictions continued beyond three months.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said residents should prepare for disruption to continue for another six months, based on remarks by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“This will obviously come at a heavy cost to many individuals and the community as a whole,” she said. “The only way we will limit the spread and the timeframe for these restrictions is to follow the public health advice of the Federal and State governments.

“This is not just about limiting the spread of this virus, but ensuring our small businesses and our tourism industry which have taken a significant blow can get back to providing a service and employing staff as soon as possible.”

Mr McGowan said residents should stock up on books, Netflix, and look to new exercise regimens.

“A lot of people will go stir-crazy, but I just urge people to understand, and reflect on the consequences of doing the wrong thing, which is lots more people can die,” he said. “This is a difficult situation. We’re only a few weeks in, and whilst it feels like months already to most of us, it’s only been a couple of weeks. I don’t want people to be complacent.”

“Just because we have low figures now doesn’t mean we always will. Look what happened in America. Italy. Spain.

“We want to drive our transmission rates right down.”

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson acknowledged concerns that residents would become “fed up” with the restrictions. He was worried about people losing patience with travel lockdowns and social distancing measures.

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